Understanding Project Delay

Project delays occur mostly in the engineering and construction industry due to a number of reasons and more often than not it results in increasing the project cost. The damages caused by the delay in a project may not always confine to the concerned project alone as it can induce knock-on effect on the other related projects in addition to causing severe dent on the credibility and management capability of the organization. It is therefore very important for a Project Manager to understand the factors that could cause project delays and all efforts should be made during various stages of the project to avoid their occurrence.

Some of the important factors which can cause delay in the successful completion of projects are listed below. 

  • Poor Engineering: Engineering mistakes can result in the delivery of defective or inefficient product which would necessitate re-engineering and rework leading to undue delay in the successful completion of the project. Care should be exercised while producing the engineering documentations and technical specifications for manufacturing or for procurement. The specifications issued to a supplier should be as exhaustive as possible and the it must be ensured the specifications and engineering requirements are well understood by the supplier.
  • Non-availability of Material: Inefficient sourcing, adverse market conditions and inflation in the prices of the raw materials are few of the reasons which lead to non-availability of raw materials/ sub-systems or its delayed delivery which in turn causes delay in projects. Effective measures for selection of suppliers are to be put in place and efficient sourcing plan is to be made for the timely procurement of raw materials/ sub systems.  
  • Quality Issues: The quality standards of the organization and sub-contractors have a definite impact on the outcome of any project. Adherence to strict quality measures and practices would ensure that the quality of the deliverables are in accordance with the specifications and  meets the expectations of the customer. The specifications and inspection criteria for the deliverables should be finalized and agreed with the customer in the beginning of the project in order to avoid any delay in completion of project due to delay in acceptance of the deliverables.
  • Lack of Funds: Funds are the most important requirement for the smooth execution of any project. Shortage of funds leads to stoppage or delay the progress of the project. It may also force the project team to compromise on the quality aspects and increase the risk factors in the project. It is advisable for the Project Manager to  produce an efficient and realistic cash-in cash-out plan in the beginning of the project with the approval of the Top Management and try to adhere to the same during the execution of the project.
  • Complexity of the Project: The more complex a project is, the more will be the risk of experiencing delay in the successful completion of the project. The risk may be due to the use of an untested technology or a product which is still under R&D. It may also be due to the complex integration process involved in the project.
  • Scope Creep: Scope creeps are sometimes unavoidable in projects, especially in engineering and construction projects. A Project Manager shall therefore include a plan for handing any scope creep / change requests and agree with the customer to review and amend the contract with respect to the cost, time and scope, if necessary while, while accepting any scope creep. Care should be exercised while accepting any scope creep without amending the delivery schedule.
  • Poor Management Support: A project in which the top management support is poor is definitely bound to experience delay in its completion. In the absence of an efficient and determined sponsor in the top management, it will be difficult for the Project Manger to garner the necessary support from the participating departments such as engineering and production, as well as the necessary support from the organization in matters of cash flow.
  • Project Organization: The manner in which the Project Team is organized has a direct impact on the efficient execution of the project. These days most of the organizations follow matrix model for project management. The cooperation extended by the functional teams to the project becomes very critical for the progress of the project activities as planned. Therefore necessary measures are to be put in place by the top management to ensure better cooperation from the functional teams for the project.
  • Inefficient Project Management: It is said that the performance of a  project is as good as the performance of the Project Manager. Poor planning, lack of coordination, poor communication etc. resulting from the inefficient management of project may lead to the delay in its successful completion.
  • Customer Requirement: There may be instances during the execution of the project, a customer may request to delay the delivery. This can be due to the financial constraints being experienced by the customer or may be due to the delay in the ensuring the readiness for accepting the delivery. For example, it may be required to delay the delivery of the electrical equipments on site for a EPC contract where the civil works have not completed as planned. In such cases, the Project Manager may negotiate with the customer to revise the contract with respect to the cost and schedule considering the impact it has on the existing cash and production plan.
  • Inefficient Sub-Contractors: Choice of sub-contractors or partners for a major contract is one of the very important factors which can determine the smooth execution and successful completion of the project. An inexperienced or in competent sub-contractor, or a sub-contractor with selfish motives may turn out to be very damaging to the business and reputation of the main contractor.  Therefore the sub-contractors or partners must be chosen with utmost care after considering their expertise, reputation and business ethics.
  • Unfavorable Climate: Temporary suspension of project activities may be necessitated by unfavorable climatic conditions. While precautions can be taken in some projects to certain extend to meet this uncertainties based on the weather report and past experiences , it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of project delay due to this factor.
  • Strained Stakeholder Relations: Good communication and efficient stakeholder management are necessary for the success of any project. A project which lacks in trust and teamspirit among the stakeholders shall experience eventual delays which may lead to its failure.
  • Regulatory Issues: All regulatory requirements are normally considered during the initial planning and scheduling of the project activities. However in some cases, additional regulations may be imposed by the authorities, from time to time, which may impact the project schedule, there by delaying the project.

As it can be seen, the adverse effect of most of these factors on the project can be avoided by proper management and by having a strong plan for risk mitigation. In the case of factors which are uncontrollable, necessary back up plan should be made in advance so that their impact can be minimized. An experienced Project Manager may be able to foresee the occurrence of factors which could delay the project and take necessary corrective actions in time to ensure the successful and timely execution of the tasks associated with the project. It should be noted that a project would sometimes be considered a failure if it does not deliver the desired result with in the specified time period.  It is therefore very much necessary for the Project Manager to be proactive and avoid  any delay in the completion of the project.

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